He may be losing his ride at the end of the season, but Ryan Newman isn’t about to let his lame duck status get in the way of putting something very special on his résumé after he captured the Crown Royal Presents the Samuel Deeds 400 Sunday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Those who may be bidding for his services next year may already be lining up.
Newman becomes just the second Indiana-born driver to win at IMS in the 20-years NASCAR has been coming to the legendary track. Newman’s boss, Tony Stewart was the other.
The 35 year old from South Bend set a track record in qualifying to grab the 50th pole of his career to top race runner-up Jimmie Johnson. He would hold off the five-time champion for his 17th Sprint Cup victory.
Driving the No. 39 Quicken Loans Smurfs Chevrolet, Newman is qualified for the 2014 Sprint Cup All Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the win positions him to qualify for this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Despite being in 16th place, he is tied with Stewart and Martin Truex Jr. with a victory apiece – they are 11th and 12th, respectively – and if he can find the winner’s circle once again Newman could jettison himself into one of the two final spots.
“I’m not sure yet. I know at this point it’s an amazing feeling,” Newman said in the media center. “I’ll say, honestly, I was more emotional yesterday after I won the pole coming off turn two than I was the entire final lap or two laps after. I’m not sure why? I think it’s something I realized yesterday how special it was and I took an emotional hit yesterday, but it’s an awesome day.”
Newman is just the third driver to win a Sprint Cup race from the pole joining Kevin Harvick in 2003 and Jimmie Johnson in 2008.
“Matt (crew chief Borland) and all these guys did such a great job giving me an awesome race car,” Newman said. “It’s probably the best race car I’ve ever driven in my entire life. I just knew I had a really good car and I didn’t want to have a good car and not win the race. Matt’s call (taking two tires on the final pit stop) really helped me out personally to get the track position I need. I was just counting down laps from that point on.”
Borland’s call was just part of the reason why Newman won. He got some help from Jimmie Johnson who not only took four tires his last trip to the pits, it took over 17 seconds to complete. At one point Johnson fell a shade over four seconds back of the leader and that was enough for Newman close it out by 2.658 seconds.
The victory snapped a winless streak that dated back to April 1, 2012 at Martinsville.
Johnson, like teammate Jeff Gordon who finished seventh, was seeking to become the first five-time NASCAR winner at The Brickyard and he gave it his best leading the most laps with 73.
Kasey Kahne came in third while Newman’s boss at Stewart-Haas Racing, Tony Stewart, finished fourth followed by Matt Kenseth. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Gordon, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-ten. Kevin Harvick, who will replace Newman at SHR next year, ended up 19th.
Stewart-Haas Racing has a pretty good afternoon despite Danica Patrick finishing 30th, two laps off the pace. Newman got the trophy and Tony Stewart finished fourth which is a kind of pick-me-up for the entire SHR team. Stewart would also like another shot at the championship and if Newman can somehow slip into the Chase during the final few races, so much the better.
“When he wins we all win,” said Stewart. “That’s what I’m proud of. Its days like this that make up for the rough start we got to the year. Ryan’s proof that our organization can do it (winning championships). Even though we ran fourth today, it’s a confidence boost for the 14 team as well.”